Breach of Contract and Wrongful Dismissal Claims upheld in Brown & Ors v Neon Underwriting

14 August, 2018

On Friday 10 August 2018, Choudhury J handed down judgment in Brown & Ors v Neon Underwriting [2018] EWHC 2137 (QB) upholding the claims for breach of contract and wrongful dismissal brought by two of its former underwriters and the claims for breach of contract brought by a third, current underwriter.

The High Court held that Neon had acted unlawfully by refusing to pay the Claimants the pay rises it had awarded them, discretionary bonuses it had declared for them, and a profit commission calculated in accordance with an express agreement they had concluded with Neon. Neon had sought to condition payment of the pay rises and declared bonuses on the Claimants’ acceptance of new contracts of employment and on their agreement to forfeit their profit commission altogether. The Court rejected Neon’s contention that any part of the Claimants’ contracts of employment entitled it to do so.

The Court held that each of Neon’s failures to pay was a repudiatory breach of contract that the two former underwriters had been entitled to accept, thereby treating themselves as wrongfully dismissed. The Court held that they had further been wrongfully dismissed by Neon’s going on to make numerous unsubstantiated findings of wrongdoing against them, without any investigation.

As a result, the Court declared that the former underwriters were no longer bound by the post-termination restraints contained in their contracts of employment. In doing so it rejected Neon’s invitation to depart from the House of Lords’ decision in General Billposting v Atkinson.

David Craig QC and Stephen Donnelly appeared for the Claimants, instructed by Anjan Patel at Cubism Law.